Understanding Islam

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Islamic Stance on Marriage with Minors


Although many people do not like it, marriage to children is a part of Islam. Allah says: "if you fear that you can not deal fairly with "the orphans" marry who seems good to you, two, three, or four"; and orphans are below the age of puberty.

Question from Pakistan

In my opinion, the marriage that has been referred to in the verse of Surah Al-Nisaa is not with a minor orphan girl. My opinion is based on the following reasons:

The verse that you have alluded to, reads as:

And if you fear that you shall not be able to do justice with these orphans, marry women that are right for you - two, three or four. (Al-Nisaa 4: 3)

The word "Yataama" (translated as "orphans") in the Arabic language is used for such minor boys and girls, whose father has passed away. This word has been used a number of times in the Qur'an  and nowhere has it been used for minor girls only.

The word "Nisaa" (translated as "women") in the Arabic language is used for adult women only. Thus the words: "Marry women that are right for you..." cannot be taken to imply marrying minor orphan girls.

The 6th verse of the Surah is another evidence of not only the fact that the word Nisaa (women), as used in verse 3, is not meant for minor orphan girls, but also that the Qur'an  has upheld the normal socio-cultural tradition of marrying boys and girls only after they have matured mentally as well as physically and are prepared to take up the responsibilities of marital life. The verse reads as:

Keep testing these orphans till the time that they reach the age of marriage... (Al-Nisaa 4: 6)

In view of the above arguments it is clear that the women regarding whom the Qur'an  is allowing marriage are not the minor orphan girls referred to previously in the verse. However, this brings us to the question that if these "women" are not the minor orphan girls previously referred to, then who are these "women". A close look at these verses and also verse 127 of the same Surah clearly shows that these "women" are actually the mothers of these orphans.

The Qur'an , in the opening part of Surah al-Nisaa has directed the Muslims to take care of the orphans (boys and girls) in the society, as they would take care of their own children. In this context, the Qur'an  says that if one fears that he shall not be able to deal justly with these orphans, he may marry their mothers, if he feels that this marriage shall help him in fulfilling his responsibility towards these orphans.

Then again in verse 127, the words "yataama al-nisaa" (translated as "orphans of these women") clearly shows that the "women" referred to in verse 6 are the mothers of the minor orphan boys and girls.

5th February 1999

Answer published by Moiz Amjad